May 12, 2008 / 5:41 PM / 12 years ago

Barr announces Libertarian presidential bid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr said on Monday that he will run for president as a Libertarian, a development that could pull some votes from Republican candidate John McCain.

Former Rep. Bob Barr speaks during a news conference, with his wife Jeri and son Derek, at the National Press Club in Washington to announce his candidacy for president of the United States as a Libertarian, May 12, 2008. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Barr said neither McCain nor Barack Obama, the Democratic frontrunner, would rein in a government that he said has grown too powerful after the September 11 attacks.

“A vote for the status quo ... is really and truly a wasted vote, because it is not going to do anything,” Barr said.

As a Georgia congressman between 1995 and 2003, Barr was a stalwart conservative and one of the leaders of the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton.

But Barr has broken with the Bush administration in recent years over its domestic surveillance program and what he called its abuse of due process rights.

Barr’s run on the Libertarian ticket could complicate things ahead of the November election for McCain, who has struggled to unite some conservatives behind his candidacy.

Roughly one-quarter of those voting in last week’s Republican nominating contests in Indiana and North Carolina cast their ballots for candidates other than McCain. And libertarian-leaning Republican candidate Ron Paul has not formally withdrawn from the race.

Barr said several members of his former party have asked him not to run.

But he said his supporters “would not likely fall into the category of people who would be enthused about voting for John McCain, if such exist.”

Barr’s exploratory committee said in April that a poll it commissioned found he would get the support of 7 percent of likely voters.

Barr did not mention New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, who trails Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination.

A matchup between Obama and McCain is unlikely to be close enough to be affected by any libertarian candidate, said Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson.

“I think we are in an election cycle here in 2008 that is leaning significantly toward the Democrats,” Jillson said. “But if Obama stumbles and McCain gets close there is a possibility” that a third-party candidate could be a factor.

The Libertarian Party will pick its presidential candidate at its convention in Denver between May 22 and May 26. According to its Web site, it has gained ballot access in 28 states so far.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/

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